Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

Learning to Have Lost, Oz Hardwick

IPSI Chapbook, 2018 £5.00

Does anyone know the rules?

Prose poems have no rules. They can slide deliciously through a lawless land — so much so that some doubt they are a form at all. Having immersed myself in the twenty-six prose poems in this pamphlet, though, I’m sure they are poems, and that their form perfectly reflects their project.

As I’ve aged, like the speaker encountered in these poems, I’ve often forgotten the rules to card games (as in ‘Bluff’) or arcade games — as in ‘Space Invaders’, where the speaker has to rely on ‘a muscle memory to guide me, a mix of faith and reflex, like a small religion.’

I’ve also made up my own rules, like the speaker’s companion in ‘Highway Code: Addendum’ with their Rules of Motorways, rules which dissolve delightfully into a world of fairy tale and Victorian fantasy.

I’ve struggled with the seemingly arbitrary rules of others, as occurs ‘In a Stranger’s Car’ where ‘scattered paperbacks invent new languages, each with more complex grammatical rules.’

I’ve also tried to figure out if there are any rules about life and death and the passage of time. The longer we live, the more we lose, and what are the rules for dealing with that? In a pamphlet entitled Learning to Have Lost, that seems to be the crucial question.

Could it be we cope by circling around theology, astronomy, cinema, jazz, train journeys, pills — allowing ourselves to become a little lost, but always holding on to some anchor, even if it is only the reflex of muscle memory or the scent of a grandmother’s mothballs?

Could it be we visit ‘The Universal Petting Zoo’, where ‘If we could map it out, it would be a Moebius strip, looping back and forth through time and space, patterned with words we let drop, smudged at the places where we almost touched’?

I think it could be about finding those places where we almost touch. So don’t worry about the rules. Allow yourself to be lost in Oz Hardwick’s surreal surfeit of ‘Origami’, and all the rest. It will touch you.

Heidi Beck